Sheffield United boss keen to attack key transfer week as he welcomes tough squad decision

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Boss hoping for further incomings ahead of Friday’s deadline

Boss Paul Heckingbottom wants Sheffield United to use the rest of the transfer window to their advantage despite admitting he is “realistic” in what they may be able to afford between now and deadline day. Heckingbottom admits he wants to sign “as many as I can” and is speaking regularly with owner Prince Abdullah.

United got their latest deal over the line on Sunday morning when Aston Villa striker Cameron Archer signed a four-year deal at Bramall Lane, effectively replacing Iliman Ndiaye almost four weeks after the Senegal forward’s move to Marseille. Eight signings so far means United are back at the numbers they were last season, after a summer clear-out of released and sold players and returning loanees, but Heckingbottom still has two domestic loan slots to play with and is eyeing more firepower at the top of the pitch.

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James McAtee, who helped United to promotion last season and has been on Manchester City’s bench so far this time around, remains a player of interest, alongside his Etihad teammate and another former Blade in Tommy Doyle, while the Blades are waiting for Manchester United to make a definitive decision about the immediate future of Urugyuan youngster Facundo Pellistri. United have also identified a number of alternative targets, to avoid being left frustrated if either of the Manchester clubs opt to keep their young stars in the building, or send them elsewhere.

“I'm comfortable in the knowledge we can deal with the league,” said Heckingbottom, after a spirited performance saw them lose 2-1 to City late on at Bramall Lane on Sunday afternoon. “But circumstances have conspired to give us a tough start to the season, when I wanted to be really aggressive at the start. We've got another seven days to come out of the window as strong as we can, and then we get to work.

“I want as many as I can but I'm realistic. Me and Prince Abdullah speak all the time, but there are always restrictions. We're working as hard as we can with what we have. We know what we want, now it's a case of trying to get it done. I may have to leave people out of the 25 as well. Realistically, we know how tough it is to get players in. That’s going to be our focus over the next few days.”

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Too many more arrivals would leave Heckingbottom with a decision to make about the 25 names to include in the squad submitted to the Premier League for the first half of the season. As things stand there is one space left for a senior player and if more than one over-21 player is signed between now and Friday’s 11pm deadline, then players would have to be sacrificed from the 25.

The return of Oli McBurnie after injury is a boost for the Blades, with the striker almost setting up another dramatic, late equaliser with a lovely cross that Anel Ahmedhodzic couldn’t get enough on at the back post after opting to attack it with his foot, rather than his head. He could get some more valuable minutes in Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup clash against Lincoln at Bramall Lane, alongside Archer - whose signing Heckingbottom described as “a big start” to what could potentially be a season-defining week.

“Imagine if we could have got it over the line before the deadline [to play against City] and the difference it could have made,” Heckingbottom added. “Cam is further on than Oli in terms of training every day, if not minutes. The opportunity and exposure Will Osula and Benie Traore are getting is fantastic for them, but we know we can help them out and showcase them a lot better with more experience and help around them.

“Imagine one of them playing up top with Oli, to use their pace and play off him, or if both were coming off the bench with their pace and energy with 20 minutes left, to either change a game or see it out. But in the first three games they've had to do the donkey work, had to hold the ball up and had to be a goal threat. And it's been a tough job for them. We need to be able to build and put teams under pressure. It’s no dig at Benie or Will, but we need those options.”

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